By Miriam Brown ’21
Assistant Professor Amanda Minervini originally planned to teach a gastronomy class in Italy during Block 8. When the coronavirus pandemic forced her to make new plans, she created a course specifically with the pandemic and online format in mind — Storytelling During the Time of the Plague: Boccaccio and ‘The Decameron.’
“I wanted to teach a topic as relevant as possible to the current situation, and I wanted to tailor the new course to online teaching, instead of adapting an existing one,” Minervini says.
Set in 1348, “The Decameron” by 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of 100 stories told by a group of young adults sheltered in the Tuscan countryside after leaving Florence to escape the plague. For the group, listening to and telling stories is more than just a way to pass time.
“The first line of “The Decameron” says: ‘It is human to have compassion on the afflicted,’” Minervini says. “So first of all, this is a course about compassion.”
The course is inspired by the digital humanities, and much of the course material is already online through The Decameron Web, a project curated by a group from Brown University. Students will have a flexible online schedule and will have multiple options for assignments and ways to explore The Decameron Web, which Minervini hopes will give them room to be creative and tie content to their own personal interests.
Minervini says the Block Plan is one-of-a-kind in being able to adapt courses to changing circumstances.
“There is no other system that would allow me to develop and teach a whole course in response to a rapidly changing situation like this,” Minervini says.
Students can still choose to sign up for the course online. It satisfies one unit toward the English major, and no knowledge of Italian is necessary.